UCL Centre for Languages & International Education (CLIE)


Mandarin level 1

Prerequisite for entry

For complete beginners or those who have had only very little contact with the language.

Term duration

10 x 2-hour classes.

Aims and objectives

The course aims to provide an introduction to basic spoken Mandarin with the emphasis on the 4 tones in Mandarin, and developing practical listening skills; and 50 basic Chinese characters to enable students to function at a basic everyday survival level. Students should be able to communicate in Mandarin on a number of practical every matters. Students will learn how to use a Chinese dictionary to help them approach some authentic material like reading a menu.


  • Formal and informal greetings, introducing yourself and others.
  • Talking about one's nationality, and occupation.
  • Introducing family members, and asking about someone's age
  • Identifying time/dates/numbers
  • Asking for direction, and locations
  • Ordering food
  • Answering telephone calls
  • Talking about likes and dislikes

Course content

Main topics/themes to be covered:

  • Greetings
  • Names and nationalities
  • Occupation
  • Family members
  • Numbers, days of the week, months
  • Arranging time and place
  • Leisure activities
  • Ordering food/drinks

Linguistic structures/ Phonetics

  • Emphasis is on the 4 tones
  • Master the initials and finals
  • Rules of pinyin pronunciation, including tone changes
  • Basic  sentence structures


  • The verb shi4
  • Question particles ma, ne
  • Negative adverb bu4
  • Adverbs ye3, dou1
  • Choice type questions you3/ mei 2 you3
  • The proposition / verb zai4
  • Modal verbs hui4, ke3 yi3
  • Possessive particle de

Learning resources


Discover China: Student's Book One, edited by Chen Xin, Jing Lili , Macmillan.

Bilingual Dictionaries

Langenscheidt dictionary
Oxford Beginners’ dictionary
Macmillan-FLTRP Chinese Character Dictionary



In addition there are supplementary materials for self-study in the Self-Access Centre.